Fatal Use of Force by Police a Leading Cause of Death for Young Men

(CN) – A study published Monday says police violence should be categorized as a public health issue as the rate of deaths caused by police has increased across all demographics, with the risk being particularly pronounced for black men.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed 11,456 fatality risks during police encounters between 2013-2017 and found black men were 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police over the course of their lifetimes.

“The inequality is not surprising,” said lead author Frank Edwards, assistant professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University-Newark. “All you have to do is turn on the news to see that people of color are at a much greater risk of police-related harm.”

But Edwards and others in the study also caution relying on anecdotal evidence like news reports and called for a more data-based approach to track the issue of police violence and its relation to race.

“What we lack in this country are the solid estimates of police related deaths because there is no official database where this information is stored,” Edwards said.

The Rutgers study used data compiled by the National Vital Statistic System’s mortality files along with Fatal Encounters, a journalist-run database that uses local news reports and public records to create a database.

The unofficial database provides a more comprehensive look at the issue of police violence than official accounts.

“We haven’t really known for sure how often these killings have been happening because the data hasn’t been good enough,” Edwards said. “But if we are going to try and change police practices that aren’t working, we need to track this information better.”

For instance, statistics show that deaths at the hands of police in the United States occur with far greater frequency than in other industrialized nations, but the precise numbers that could greater illuminate the magnitude of the problem remain elusive.

But using the available data, the study was able to establish black men face a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police over their lifetime compared to a 1 in 2,000 chance for men in general. Women face a 1 in 33,000 chance of being killed by police – about 20 times lower than men.

But black women are still at a statistical disadvantage when compared to women of other races, according to the study, with black women about 1.4 times more likely to be killed than white women.

Other aspects of the study were counterintuitive.

While Latino men were 1.4 times more likely to be killed than their white counterparts, Latina women were about 1.2 times less likely to be killed than white women.

Native Americans also fare poorly in regard to police violence.

Native American men were 1.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men and Native women were about 1.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white women.

Regardless of race, the rate of death while in police custody has increased over the lifetime of the study.

“The Bureau of Justice Statistics needs to develop a comprehensive system that would track police-related deaths,” said Edwards. ”We need to increase transparency of police use-of-force if we are going to decrease the number of civilian deaths in this country as a result of these encounters.”

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